Descartes Systems Group, the global leader in uniting logistics-intensive businesses in commerce, released its March Global Shipping Report for logistics and supply chain professionals. The report shows February 2023 U.S. container imports decreased significantly from January 2023 but remained aligned with pre-pandemic 2019 volumes. Despite the reduction, port transit delays increased for the top West, East and Gulf Coast ports. Chinese imports followed the downward trend along with the rest of the top countries of origin. COVID continues to be a factor from ports of origin and the West Coast labor situation has still not been sorted out. The February update of the logistics metrics Descartes is tracking shows some consistency with pre-pandemic import volume seasonality but continues to point to challenging global supply chain performance in 2023.

February 2023 U.S. container import volumes decreased 16.2% from January 2023 to 1,734,272 TEUs (see Figure 1). Versus February 2022, TEU volume was down 25.0%, but only 0.3% lower than pre-pandemic February 2019. Two points to consider with the February numbers: 1) February has 28 days versus 31 for January and 2) With the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday occurring in January 2023, its impact on container import volumes would be seen in late February and early March 2023.

Figure 1. U.S. Container Import Volume Year-over-Year Comparison

Source: Descartes Datamyne™

“Examining imports from January and February in the previous six years, February 2023 volumes would have been expected to be significantly lower than January 2023 (see Figure 2),” said Chris Jones, EVP Industry at Descartes. “Declining container import volumes but rising port transit times demonstrate that, while 2023 volumes resemble 2019, global supply chain performance could remain uneven in 2023.”

Figure 2: January to February U.S. Container Import Volume Comparison